“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” ~ Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 19
The book is like a hug… a lovely hug of nostalgia and family history and character-building and beautiful scenery. I have so many wonderful memories attached to this book and these characters, that returning to them felt like I was revisiting a place where I had spent many happy vacations! Since the books and the movies are intrinsically linked in my mind and heart, the recent death of the beloved Jonathan Crombie (the charming actor who plays Gilbert) inspired me to reread the book series.
My beautiful great-grandmother (right) and two of her younger siblings around the time she was beginning her teaching career and the family would have read Anne of Green Gables.
For me Anne of Green Gables has such a dear connection to the women in my ancestry. I am fortunate to have a memoir written by my great-grandmother’s sister of their childhood homesteading in the prairies of Manitoba, in which she describes the family’s love of this particular novel. So many of my female relatives, like Anne, became teachers in small one-room schoolhouses in the early part of the 20th C, and I grew up always hearing these stories at family gatherings. My great-aunt has always had an Anne rag doll displayed in her living room and rereads the books every time she is feeling under the weather (which, now that she is approaching 90, is more often that not meaning these books are an almost constant presence on her night stand). My own copies of the books were a cherished gift from my grandmother complete with precious inscriptions of the date and occasion on which I received each of them. Growing up I spent more hours than I can count with my sister engrossed in the world of Avonlea through both the Anne movies and the Road to Avonlea TV series. Knowing that I am the 5th generation in my family to read and enjoy Anne of Green Gables gives this book such special significance to me.
This time through reading Anne of Green Gables produced some serious nostalgia. It definitely reminded me of my own childhood, from which I am now several years removed, both because I could remember reading the book for the first time when I was about 8 and because it is, at its core, a book about the simple joys of childhood. It brought me back to a time when I too named the trees in my yard, created elaborate outdoor forts with my sister, mismeasured a cake recipe before important company, envisioned imaginary monsters that scared me half to death, engaged in academic rivalries with the boys in my class, formed and disbanded clubs and societies on a weekly basis, worried about being too skinny and freckled, always had my nose buried in a book, and participated in extraordinarily ordinary adventures with my own “bosom friend”.
The characters of this story are so wonderfully detailed and there is definitely an arc of character-building for most of the main personae. Of course, I saw some of myself reflected in Anne’s traits, both good and bad! But it was Marilla’s development that stood out to me most as I read, as she slowly transforms by letting herself be open to love, joy, and connectedness. When people talk about wanting more “strong female characters”, I always am hoping for more Annes and Marillas and Dianas and Mrs. Lyndes.
Much of the descriptions of growing up and ambitions rang so true for me at this stage of my life. I especially enjoyed this quote: “For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.” (Chapter 36) After a challenging first year in an MA program, I could relate totally! Anne’s bittersweet transition out of childhood and the internal struggles she faces meeting her own expectations are both experiences that I identified with strongly this time reading the book.
There is something about the way Montgomery’s prose describes the scenery that means one can’t help but have a vivid imagination while reading it. As always, I ended the book with a longing to pay PEI a visit! Since I am currently living in a city and oftentimes feel quite alienated from nature, I especially loved her wonderful passages that brought the countryside to life!
Although I read and reread Anne of Green Gables many times when I was younger, it has probably been 10 years since I last read it and, at that time, I got bogged down in some of the later books in the series once it moved past her childhood exploits to her time at university, career as a school teacher, and married life. Now that I am older and can better identify with some of those themes, I am very excited to continue on in the series!
“My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend…” ~ Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 38